HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Melissa Deming isn’t used to seeing her Seminole Heights restaurant, Ella’s, so quiet.
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“It used to be alive with music and people. It’s just been so strange working in a facility where you have no customers. It’s felt like the Twilight Zone,” said Deming.
She says that’s become the new normal — just silence.
“We’ve had a massive impact here. We’ve lost at least 38 of our staff members and a big chunk of income,” said Deming.
Seminole Heights has become an area known for its booming restaurant scene, so when the coronavirus shut down several of the area’s restaurants, the community knew they had to step in and help.
“That was one of the fears I had one the COVID-19 crisis started was how are these independent restaurants going to be able to handle and respond to that?” said Brenton Wiernik, a community member.
Wiernik is now just one of dozens of volunteers on the Heights Citizens Bicycle Brigade, a group that bikes to different local restaurants and delivers take out orders to the community for no added cost.
“This was a great opportunity to be active while helping out our neighborhood,” said Wiernik.
He says he sometimes bikes up to 25 miles a day delivering food to help community members who are supposed to stay at home, and to help the restaurants keep up business.
“It really kind of is about the people in the community helping each other,” said Wiernik.
“With their help, (we will pull through this) definitely. We haven’t had the capability to put on a full delivery team so having that extra hand in making it all happen has really been a big help,” said Deming.
Whatever it takes to get these restaurants back in the saddle.
For a full list of participating restaurants, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/heightsbrigade/.
Any tips given to these volunteers are turned back over to the restaurants to help with any costs they currently are struggling to pay.